Lemony Butter Cookies


Using powdered sugar in the dough in place of granulated sugar gives these lemon butter cookies a deliciously light crumb.

Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
36 cookies

This simple lemon butter cookie recipe is made from only a handful of ingredients. That means for the flavor to really shine, it's especially important to use fresh lemon juice and high-quality butter (European-style is great here). You'll be using the lemon rind, too, so choose unwaxed lemons if you have the option. When zesting the lemons, take care to only shave off the outer yellow layer, leaving the white pith behind.

How to make butter cookies

Butter cookies are all about a tender, delicate crumb; using powdered sugar is the first step to achieving this, since the texture is much finer than that of granulated sugar. The powdered sugar is first combined with the butter, which needs to be soft so the two ingredients can blend together without much effort. The goal is a smooth mixture, not an especially fluffy one, so stop beating once it's creamy and homogenous. Then, once you've added the flour, be sure not to overmix — that causes gluten to develop, making for tough cookies. To minimize the risk, many bakers prefer to only partially incorporate the flour with the mixer and finish mixing by hand using a rubber spatula.



  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

  • Finely grated lemon zest, for garnish


Make the cookies

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and position racks in the upper and lower thirds. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the powdered sugar until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in the lemon zest and juice, then beat in the flour and salt until just incorporated; scrape down the side of the bowl as necessary.

  2. Roll half of the dough into 1-inch balls. Arrange the balls 1 inch apart on two baking sheets and, using your fingers, gently flatten each cookie. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned on the bottom and just firm; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely. Let the baking sheets cool slightly, then repeat with the remaining dough.

Meanwhile, make the glaze

  1. In a bowl, whisk the powdered sugar with the lemon juice and butter until smooth.

  2. Spread the lemon glaze on the cooled cookies and garnish with finely grated lemon zest. Let stand until the glaze is set, about 15 minutes.

Lemony Butter Cookies
© Kristen Stevens

Make ahead

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

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